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GEN’s editor in chief, John Sterling, interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Rutgers University reported a discovery that could help scientists develop drugs to fight avian flu and other virulent strains of influenza. The researchers determined the 3-D structure of a site on an influenza A virus protein that binds to one of the human protein targets, thereby suppressing a person's natural defenses to the infection and paving the way for the virus to replicate efficiently. This NS1 virus protein is shared by all influenza A viruses isolated from humans, including avian influenza, or bird flu, and the 1918 pandemic influenza virus. The results were published in the September 2 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
During this week's podcast, Dr. Robert Krug, one of the paper's authors, describes how this most recent study actually builds on a finding he made 10 years ago. He provides details on what the research team was able to learn from the image of the 3-D structure of the NS1 binding pocket, which was obtained using X-ray crystallography, and how the team was able to validate the key role of the binding pocket in flu replication. Dr. Krug goes on to discuss how the knowledge gained from the experiment might lead to new drugs to help fight the various flu strains.
Dr. Krug is professor and chair of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and the Lorene Morrow Kelley Fellow in Microbiology at The University of Texas at Austin. Krug is a leader in the field of influenza virus molecular biology and discovered “cap-snatching,” which is key to influenza virus gene expression, and novel mechanisms of viral-host interactions. For his landmark discoveries, he received Belgium’s Interbrew-Baillet-Latour Health Prize for basic medical research. He is also a member of the university’s Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology.